Sri Lankan’ cuisine is a delightful mixture of our own culinary tradition spanning centuries, together with inputs and ingredients derived from diverse sources. Stemming from age old trade links, invasions and conquests Sri Lankan cuisine has acquired influences from South & North India, Malay Peninsula, Arabian Peninsula as well as Europe. Several ethnic and region-based variants co-exist in appetizing harmony. While rice is the staple food, an assortment of rice or wheat flour-based foods such as ‘Kiribath’ (Milk Rice),‘Pittu’, ‘Sting Hoppers’, ‘Hoppers’ and ‘Roti’ are consumed as the main meal, especially for breakfast or dinner. Coconut forms the basis of most ‘Curries’. A variety of vegetable curries, usually two or three in number, form the side dishes, while seafood and meat based dishes are also included. The seafood is especially worthy of mention.
The liberal infusion of Chillie, as well as a profusion of spices such as Cinnamon,. Cloves, Cardamom, Nutmeg, Coriander, Cummin, Fennel, Tamarind, Ginger, etc., make Sri Lankan food very spicy indeed. Due to the generous usage of Chillie, Sri Lankan cuisine is considered much spicier than its regional counterparts. Most tourist hotels, however, prepare a low-spice variant, which is usually acceptable to the Western palate.
Sambols & Pickles
‘Sambol’, which usually consists of ground coconut scrapings, mixed with Chillies, Maldive Fish and Lime, invariably accompanies most meals. Pickles, locally known as ‘Chutney’ are made from fruits, vegetables or Maldive Fish and preserved in lime or vinegar.
Sri Lankan fruits are a class apart. Several varieties of Bananas, as well as Mangoes, Papaya, Oranges, Pine-Apple, Wood-Apple, Custard Apple, Pomegranate, and Jak Fruit can be found throughout the year. Most of these can be made into a delicious and energizing beverage. Durian, Mangosteen and Rambuttan are seasonal fruits which appear mostly during the hot summer months.
Having a liberalized economy with a thriving formal and informal trade, Sri Lanka offers an exhilarating shopping experience, ranging from noisy, insistent roadside vendors to upscale shopping malls. Most resort areas offer typically ‘touristy’ items, such as souvenirs, batik clothing, handicrafts, tea, etc., while trendy stores and malls specialize in designer clothing and accessories of reputed brands, which are manufactured in the country. These can be purchased at a fraction of the cost you would pay elsewhere. Casual clothing, accessories and electronic items can also be purchased at competitive prices in most stores. Handicrafts are available at Government owned stores, while Gems should be purchased only from reputed dealers authorized by the National Gem & Jewellery Authority. Several supermarket chains offer food, beverages and other items which are required by expatriates.
Several licensed casinos operate in Colombo, where you can play roulette, baccarat, poker, blackjack, and other games of chance. Complimentary food and drinks, as well as live music from talented bands, are the norm in most venues .British Turf races are avidly followed throughout the country.
Alcohol & Tobacco
Sri Lanka has a strict policy on public intoxication and smoking on roads /public areas. However alcohol is freely available at bars, wine stores, Supermarkets, hotels and upscale restaurants, while local and international brands of cigarettes can be purchased almost anywhere. Alcohol cannot be purchased on Full Moon ‘Poya’ Days and most religious and important national holidays. However, it can be consumed within the confines of your hotel room from the mini-bar or if purchased in advance. Contact the hotel reception for details. The popular local tipple is ‘Arrack’, which is made from fermented coconut toddy. Most westerners are quite partial to this beverage and it is certainly worth a try.
Travelling by public transport can be a tiring experience during rush hours, due to overcrowding and the warm, humid climate. However private transport is available in the form of an excellent taxi service with metered cars/vans, which can be contacted by phone. The ubiquitous ‘Tuk, Tuks, are also an easy way to get about. Using the metered variety will ensure that you are not overcharged. Time taken to cover a given distance in Sri Lanka is usually not the same as in Western countries, due to varying road conditions, vagaries of weather or just plain traffic jams, which can be caused by a multitude of factors. This should be borne in mind while planning or setting out on a journey.
Most Sri Lankans have a casual and unconcerned attitude about how foreigners should be attired, especially in Colombo and resort areas. However a degree of modesty is advisable, if you are venturing into small towns or interior villages. While visiting temples, the upper part of the body should be fully covered, with suitable knee-length clothing to be worn by females. Footwear is strictly prohibited within places of worship.
People are helpful and polite in general and the crime rate is relatively low. Crimes, specifically targeting expatriates, is extremely rare, though caution should be exercised while wearing or carrying expensive jewellery or other items. The highly visible presence of law enforcement authorities in most part of the country is a useful deterrent to crime.